Five biggest takeaways from the SEC’s opening night

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If last night was the slightest of indications of what 2013 will be, hold on to your jock straps. Football is back, and there was no better way to kick it off than last night:

The Thriller: Did we witness the best game of the season the first night? Probably not, but Ole Miss-Vanderbilt was everything it was cut out to be. There were momentum swings; there were big plays; it was a roller coaster, and you loved every minute of it. You better hold on to your hats, because that was just the first night. Both teams couldn’t afford to lose and have a ‘successful’ season in their minds, and opening night saw two teams who refused to lose. Each team was prepared and well coached. Coming in, I thought this had a chance to be the most underrated game of week one. Now, I’m asking whether this one could be the most underrated game of the season.

Clowney: Overrated? Nah, but that will be the reaction from around the country today. Clowney made just three tackles and compiled no sacks. But it’s fair to critique the country’s most talented player. Steve Spurrier made it clear after the game that he wasn’t happy about his conditioning. In fact, most of the team was sucking wind in the first quarter. Who’s the strength and conditioning coordinator? Clowney downplayed his lackluster start, even saying he had a stomach bug, but you all remember the red flag raised by Spurrier in training camp about Clowney’s conditioning. Credit UNC for taking Clowney out of the game and scheming around him. Quick screens and draws helped neutralize the freak.

Related: UNC player tried to cheap shot Clowney

Rebels freshmen: They were as good as advertised. Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Tony Connor, Laremy Tunsil and Evan Engram all played and all made impacts. Entering the game, most of the talking heads were downplaying the Rebels’ recruiting class and hype. Connor made the game’s first INT. Nkemdiche is the next Reggie White. Did you see his 11-yard run on the fake punt? What an athlete. Treadwell was the game plan in the second half, and he caught nine passes for 82 yards. Tight end Engram caught five passes for 61 yards and looked like he’ll be a big contributor this season. Tunsil is a future franchise left tackle. All five made big impacts. There’s a new era in Oxford.

No missing Lattimore: Several raised the questions of where exactly South Carolina will get their running game now that Lattimore is gone. They all quickly forgot that the Gamecocks were 9-1 without Lattimore the last two years. Now, they can be sure of it. With Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, the running game is good enough to get to Atlanta. Davis rushed 12 times for 115 yards and one touchdown, breaking off a 75-yard touchdown run and refusing to be tackled on some carries, while Wilds carried 12 times for 64 yards. Combined they are thunder and thunder.

Mr. Matthews: Everyone will talk about Jordan Matthews’ gutsy performance (literally) and that it was his fault the interception happened on the final drive. But he is so talented. The former two-star nobody showed why last night he’s one of the top receivers in the country. Matthews led all receivers with 10 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown. Why did you think his 94 catches for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns were a fluke? He’s the real deal.

Photo Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Both were great games last night. The Vandy Ole Miss game kept me awake. It was nice to see them both playing hard. The conditioning aspect on SCs part game sucked. The heat and humidity was pretty bad yesterday but that’s not an excuse neither is the up-tempo offense of UNC. Hopefully this will be addressed this week.

  • Jon, you must not have watched the same game that I did. Nkemdiche was cumbersome and slow the only player for Ole miss that stood out was Treadwell that guy is awesome and will only get better. Wallace spent more time in the dirt than on his feet. They will have to get much better to make the big run as hype indicated. Anyway I hope they play like that in the EGG BOWL .

    • Bug – if you were expecting Jadeveon Clowney-type speed from Nkemdiche, that’s not his game. He’s a plugger on the line that won’t wow you with speed. But at 6-5, 295 pounds as a freshman with athleticism – wow. He caused a deflection, made several tackles and that 11-yard run was no joke. Tony Connor didn’t stand out? Bug, I know you’re a State fan, but you have to give the freshman class some props. No, they aren’t capable of taking Ole Miss to Atlanta YET, but they are set up nicely for the future.

      With that being said, I’m just as excited to see Chris Jones and Fred Ross.

  • Clowney didn’t look interested the whole game IMO. He resembled a lethargic wasp floating around. Other than that USC looked decent and UNC schemed well but didn’t execute.

    Vandy and OM was an instant classic…. was like a middle heavyweight title fight. I was sure pulling for Vandy, but have to give credit where credit is due. OM freshman played well and I was surprised how many of them made immediate impacts. Treadwell looks to be a stud.

  • What is it about Vanderbilt, Thursday night season openers against SEC teams, and missed pass interference calls that we can’t seem to get past? I guess I was just hoping after a 9-4 season that maybe Vanderbilt would start getting refs who called the game as it is, rather than call the game to assure Vanderbilt doesn’t upset a higher ranked SEC opponent and take them out of contention. Was that too much to ask for? Wishful thinking? I thought it was a little bit ridiculous on the drive when the refs missed a pass interference, a facemask, and then called a false start when it should’ve been an offsides. They also managed to call a holding on that 3rd down, and then a penalty for throwing past the line of scrimmage (the only justified call on that series). That came at a point of huge momentum in the 3rd quarter when Vandy was trying to hold on. What with all the missed Pass Interference calls (I counted at least 3) it was like the last drive of last years opening game against South Carolina.That being said, lots of respect to Ole Miss, I hated seeing the game end that way but it was still one of the best games I’ve ever been to. Also, Jordan Matthews proved to everyone why I’ve been saying he should be in the Heisman talk. DUDE IS NOT A HUMAN BEING!!! You got anything to add/comment on, Cooper? Apologies for the rant.

    • The Andre Hal call was bogus, and the no-call last year against SC was tough, too. The offsides was called a snap infraction, right? Jordan Matthews is a beast, for sure. Many doubted his numbers, or whether he could do it without Boyd. No Boyd; no problem. Tough finish for sure.

    • As a fan you’ll always notice the no-calls against you own team. From an Ole Miss perspective, I noticed some missed calls that would have helped us. Luck is a part of football. How about if college rules were like NFL rules, Vandy wouldn’t have scored their last TD. He fumbled the ball past the first down yardage, y’all recovered, & first down. In the NFL, that’s 4th & 3 & you’re punting. Anyways, the breaks, pounces, etc. go both ways.

      That said, Jordan Matthews is a stud, and played his heart out last night. You could tell he earned the respect of the Ole Miss D, as most went to shake hands with him after the game. I think our D just faced the best wide receiver they’ll cover this year.

  • Ole Miss/Vandy game was a great one to watch last night. Was pulling for Vandy, but it’s hard to hate the ending of that game. Was a thriller! USC looks strong again, but I kinda expected that performance from Clowney. It’s not like he showed out last year on every single play in every single game. Spurrier had mentioned a few weeks ago that his conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be. And Clowney has always played better in games that were bigger and when the game was on the line. It would be fun to watch him go hard on every play though

    • Obviously the Tar Heels conditioning was at a literal different level than the Gamecocks. ESPN showed at 5:40pm the temperature at field level was pegged out at 138, but the oven was at the same level for both teams. I don’t think we will be seeing the Ole Ball Coach patting anyone on the back for their conditioning.

  • USCe’s offense looked unstoppable in the first quarter. Wilds looks pretty damn tough and Davis has been solid from day one. I will reserve judgment on how good the running game really is once they face UGA next week. Sorry, but an ACC defense (UNC, at that) is just not a great barometer.
    As for Ole Miss/Vandy, I didn’t get through the whole game, especially the good part, but Ole Miss’ freshmen certainly showed they were worth the money. I’m worried about them this year and am glad we won’t be playing them at least next year. Vandy just can’t stop being Vandy. I like their new found fire, but they still can’t find a way to close.

    • Hard to close with the refs against us. I understand that people always say Vandy blames everything on the refs, but if you watched every game like a Vandy fan does, it’s hard not to. Three pass interference calls missed, two in the second half. It ain’t easy bein’ gold.

      • I wanted Vandy to win bad, but unless the refs missed a call on that 75-yard run with a little over a minute left, then blaming them for Vandy’s inability to close fails. I mean, it’s one thing to let Ole Miss drive it down and score, but to totally shit the bed and allow a 75-yard run is inexcusable.

        • Watch the replay. There’s at least two missed hold/block in the back calls. Watch right when Scott gets to the sideline. Other than that, Javon Marshall (#31) made a terrible angle to the ball and got juked out of his shoes. So that was bad tackling on top of a few missed calls.

      • I’ve got a lot of respect for Vandy after that game, but with whining about miss calls is making me sick. You sound like a sore loser and a little child. My 9 year old daughter doesn’t wine that much. I saw just as many miss calls against Ole Miss and a couple of holding ones on the Vandy OL that didn’t get called. It’s fans like you that make other fans hate your team. Stop whining like a baby. Ole Miss should have never let Vandy back into the game after they took the lead in the second half, Ole Miss made several mental mistakes. Ole Miss should have never let Matthew get behind them on that 4th and 18. But other than that. I think Vandy will have a good season and are legit. The Vandy QB impressed me the most thou. He was unproven and inexperienced in the SEC. The Ole Miss defense is really young and will continue to get better, they just made a lot of mental mistakes last night and got out of position. The great news for Ole Miss is that they are young and Ole Miss is looking to bring in another top recruiting class this year.

    • Well played on your silly comment, “showed that they were worth the money”. It’s crazy how funny that accusation still is……..said no-one ever.

      • Who said I was trying to be funny?

        • @Dawyg780: It looks like Georgia needs to start putting out some more money, because Georgia just can seem to win against anyone that is good. And no, I wasn’t being Funny. Ole Miss shouldn’t have let Vandy back into the game once they took back the lead in the fouth quarter by letting Vandy complete a hail marry pass to Matthews. But atleast our freshmen played better than Georgia’s freshmen in their first game. So you need to tell Riche to stop being stingy with all that money so Georgia can get some better recruits.

        • Yeah, Armyguy, cheating is cool.
          You also fail to grasp that your freshmen played better against a mediocre team, whereas UGA’s freshmen saw their first action ever against a top-10 team.
          But, hey, enjoy being able to talk trash now. You guys have a long road ahead this season.

    • Your right when you say going against an ACC defense isnt a great barometer but GA’s defense went against an ACC offense and lost. Kind of a duel standard maybe even if it was argueably the ACC’s most high powered offense. What im basically saying is in regards to your post I dont think Ga would be an actual good test for SC with your defense. On the other hand your offense looked good. I have to say neither SC or GA looked dominate but the season is young so we’ll see you this weekend. GO GAMECOCKS!!!!!

      • Maybe you had a good point in mind, but you failed to make it. You seem to imply that UGA’s defense is almost as bad as UNC’s because UGA lost to Clemson, who by many accounts, not only has one of the best (if not the best) offenses in the ACC, but one of the best in the entire country. Who knows at this point, though. I would be willing to bet UGA’s defense gives SC much more a test. Maybe it’s a bet I would lose. You were right about one thing: we’ll see this weekend.

  • The Vanderbilt – Ole Miss game certainly was all it was advertised to be. I like both of these teams a good deal, but I must say I was pulling for Vandy. That much said, it was a good game that really showed just how much both of these teams have come over the last few years. Just because Vandy lost this one doesn’t mean they aren’t good. After watching that one, I would put a great many non-SEC teams against them and expect an SEC win. I couldn’t say that 2 years ago. I love what these coaches have done for the respective programs and can’t wait to see just how far Ole Miss can go in the next few years (stacked with talent just waiting to be developed).

  • What a wild game last night. I have a feeling Ole Miss will have some wild ones this year. Really tough loss for Franklin. He had his team ready, they just couldn’t close it down. I believe it would have been a bigger win for Vanderbilt, as they need these wins at this point of time in Franklin’s tenure. Ole Miss looks like they’re putting something together down there, so whether they won or lost, they’re moving in the right direction.